|OTTAWA - Stockwell Day's tenuous leadership of the Canadian Alliance has suffered perhaps its most crippling blow with the defection of party matriarch Deborah Grey. Grey, one-time deputy leader and the longest-serving caucus member, yesterday called on Day to resign immediately and said she would become the 12th member of a dissident caucus, giving it the right to seek party status in the House of Commons. A 13th rebel, Manitoba MP Inky Mark, is expected to jump this morning, but many believe Grey's announcement could open the floodgates and spur others to join a group which has been gaining members since April. Grey's move came as a Toronto
Star/EKOS poll showed Alliance support continuing a free fall, sitting at 10 per cent of committed voters nationally, and 9 per cent in Ontario. Grey was the first MP elected for the forerunner of the Alliance, the Reform party, when she took the Alberta riding of Beaver River in a 1989 by-election. She is a founding Reform member, led the Alliance on an interim basis during last spring's leadership race and has been the long-standing cheerleader during the party's highs and lows. But her own credibility took a blow this year when she flip-flopped and decided to accept her MP's pension. ``Stockwell has to resign and call a leadership review and we have to get our house back in order,'' said Grey, who represents Edmonton North. ``I want to say to Stockwell: `You gave it a shot, it's been a year. Stock, there is no shame in admitting you are not a leader'.'' Day's one-year anniversary as Alliance leader is Sunday. Grey, who resigned as deputy leader in April, said she has tried to work things out ``within the family'' but said any debate, discussion or disagreement was not allowed. ``We've been told to support the leader, express confidence in him or leave caucus,'' she said. ``Unfortunately there's only one of those options open to me.'' Grey made her announcement in her Edmonton riding as party officials were meeting in Calgary working on plans for an internal referendum on a merger or a coalition with the Progressive Conservatives. ``I'm quite disappointed she has chosen to take this step,'' said Alliance House leader John Reynolds (West Vancouver- Sunshine Coast). ``This is not hurting the leader of the party, it's hurting the party itself and that's what I find distasteful.'' Rick Anderson, a former Preston Manning strategist now aligned with the dissidents, cautioned against assuming the Grey move would lead a stampede out of caucus. ``While there is a strong sense of individualism in the Alliance, they also consult,'' Anderson said. ``Having said that, Deb is one of the best-regarded people in the party, if not Canadian politics. ``There is a deeply held respect for her and clearly she has more influence than most.'' Anderson maintained the rebels should apply to Commons Speaker Peter Milliken for the funding, question period time and committee seats to which they are entitled, without starting a new political party. Anderson shrugged at the prospect of the dissidents being stripped of party memberships. ``I think we're all well past caring what Stockwell Day thinks,'' he said. Grey, who said she decided on her action only Monday night, said she has felt under attack from Day loyalists. She said she is personally hurt that a group backing Day's leadership has sued her and finds it ``incomprehensible'' that Anderson was suspended from the party's governing council. She also implied one of the last straws was the ``fictitious'' resume of Day's new chief of staff, Jim MacEachern, and found it offensive that Day would talk about revoking party memberships. ``I find it very hurtful that this is happening in my family,'' she said in an interview. She said the Star/EKOS poll was just one more sign that things had to be turned around immediately before the damage to the party became irreversible. ``She's falling like a rock,'' Grey said of party poll numbers. Grey said she couldn't predict where the party would be if it waited until next April's convention because ``I'm not very good with negative numbers.'' Earlier in the day, Reynolds said the party would not move to expel those who have called on Day to resign. If they decide to form a new party, they would be expelling themselves, he said. Reynolds wrote to each of the 11 dissidents yesterday, asking them 10 questions, such as whether they plan to start their own parliamentary caucus, who would lead them, how would the leader be chosen, and whether they would join Joe Clark's
Tories. They are questions, he said, the remaining caucus members would like to have answered before a caucus meeting set for July 17 in Calgary. Also yesterday, Clark again rejected any coalition overtures from Day's party or participation in any referendum involving the two parties. He said he will continue discussions with the dissidents who have been suspended from caucus, but has not held any discussions with them about joining the Tory caucus.